National Catholic Register

Culture of Life

Room for Improvement

Family Matters

BY Dr. Ray Guarendi

January 31-February 13, 2010 Issue | Posted 1/25/10 at 3:00 AM

 

I’ve read that sending kids to their room is bad discipline because it’s taking a special place and pairing it with punishment.

I’ll do you one better. I’ve read that sending a child to his room can give him bad feelings toward sleep. If so, since the days of early adolescence, I should have been a complete insomniac.

I don’t agree with these far-stretched warnings in the least. To begin, a similar case could be made against nearly all discipline. If you make a teen write an essay on respect each time he’s disrespectful, will he turn away from the English language? If you fine him a dollar, will he grow up hating money? Will a preschooler sent to a corner become cornerphobic? If he sits one too many times in time-out, will he develop an aversion to chairs? Virtually every consequence carries some negative component or it wouldn’t be a consequence. It wouldn’t teach a lesson or have deterrent effect.

I suppose there are a few kids whose rooms could lose a little luster from their revisits, but even so, the pros of room time-out far exceed the cons. Before getting into these, one condition needs to be set. Mickey’s room is not a branch of Disney World, complete with an 18-foot video screen, toy warehouse and phone satellite linkup to nine countries. It is a relatively quiet place with a bed, some books and a few other comforts. If not, you can A) thin it out or B) use another room. Many parents choose “B” because they can’t afford to hire enough trucks to haul away the room’s inventory.

The first benefit of room time-out is ease and simplicity. Three related laws of discipline are: The simpler it is, the more likely we’ll do it. The more likely we’ll do it, the better it’ll work. The better it works, the less we have to do it.

A room stay is well suited to any number of daily misbehaviors: disrespect, sibling quibbling, temper surges and arguing. Removal from the scene of the trouble is quick and effective. In a recent study of strong families, the most common discipline was room time, particularly for elementary schoolers and older kids.

A second benefit is the “out of your face” phenomenon. Rooms separate agitated, irritated or instigated parties, be they parents and kids, kids and kids or maybe parents and parents. So often discipline turbulence is not caused by the discipline itself but by the escalating words and emotions that can erupt during discipline. A firm room directive short-circuits trouble before it fuels itself. It allows both parties to simmer down more quickly, thus leaving much unsaid that is not meant and would later need explanation or apology. If you don’t say it, it doesn’t hurt.

A third benefit: Rooms give everyone time to think. Neither we nor Fulbright may use the time, but it’s there.

What is Raddison allowed to do in his room? Again, that’s up to you. But I would make off-limits the really neat stuff, like phone, television, iPod and toys. That leaves the quieter things like sitting, thinking, sleeping, reading and fuming. All in all, still not a bad selection.

The doctor is always

in at DrRay.com.